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A Lifesaving Stroke

Missy Ryan turned in the race of her life one morning at the
Atlanta Olympics. She and Karen Kraft placed second in pairs
rowing, missing a gold medal by .39 of a second. The race to save
a life began that evening. Ryan (who then went by her maiden
name, Schwen) was told that she was the best candidate to donate
a kidney to her older brother, Michael, who suffered from IgA
nephropathy, an autoimmune disease that attacks the renal system.
Michael had made it to Atlanta to watch his sister row even
though his kidneys had begun shutting down. "I didn't think twice
about donating," says Missy. "Rowing again wasn't a
consideration." She donated the kidney four weeks after the
Games. Her brother is now healthy and in optometry school at

Ryan and Kraft both lived in San Francisco but didn't talk
comeback for more than a year. "We had unsettled feelings about
the close finish in '96," says Ryan, 28. "One day I said, 'So
whaddya think?' We asked ourselves, If we don't go back, will we
regret it? It was clear we would." In the summer of 1998, Ryan
found herself alone at a boat club trying to do six kilometers in
20 minutes on an ergometer machine. "I was fighting my own demons
and stopped after 1,500 meters," she says. "I got so angry at

Since October 1999, Ryan and Kraft have been training in
Princeton, N.J. They also took jobs in the gardening department
of a Home Depot--"Karen works in plants; I work in rakes," Ryan
says--that allow them flexible training hours. In July they won
the U.S. trials. Ryan draws inspiration from Michael. "When I was
four, I climbed a 30-foot pine tree because that's what he did,"
she says. "I wanted to see the world like my brother."

--Brian Cazeneuve